Gone Girl is filled with terrific supporting performances, and Kim Dickens has got to be considered first among equals. As Detective Boney, she’s the closest thing the audience has to a surrogate character: Like us, she spends the first half of the film wondering what Nick (Ben Affleck) is keeping secret, and once she finds out that there’s more to this missing-wife case than meets the eye, her skepticism and salient questions speak for everyone. This week, with Gone Girl leading the box office, Dickens called up Vulture to tackle all those claims of misogyny and to reveal just how fun a David Fincher set can be.
Actors in David Fincher films are often asked about the practical reality of doing so many takes, but I wonder if that makes it more interesting when you do see the final product, because you might not have a sense of what he’s going to use. Did it surprise you at all?
That’s an interesting question, because when I first see something I’ve done, it takes my breath away a little bit. It’s hard to get past that first judgment of, “Oh, Jesus, is that the take they used?” Or, “Oh, God, I didn’t realize my hair was going to look like that.” You can set that aside pretty quickly after you’ve been doing it awhile, but this one didn’t do that to me, thank goodness, because it’s something I’m so proud of. There’s nothing haphazard about what David Fincher does. He’s said this in interviews: We spend all this money, we take all this time to get ready, and yet so many people think we gotta do two takes and get out of here. Why? Let’s leave at the end of the day and not feel like, “Ah, maybe we didn’t get it.” And as an actor, that’s fun. When you have great material and a visionary director at the helm, we could stay there all day. And we did. [Laughs.]
We know that Fincher has this very meticulous vision, but so much of Gone Girl is so comedic that I kept picturing him cackling behind the camera. Is he lighter and funnier than people would think?
Oh, he’s so funny. That was one of the big surprises, how fun the experience was. You hear these rumors about his process, and it seems like, “Wow, this is gonna be grueling and break us all down?” And you get there, and it’s just about getting everybody to live in their A-game every day. He starts with himself. He pushes himself, he challenges himself every day, and he challenges all of us, top to bottom, crew to cast. He knows each character so through and through that he could practically play it. He comes in with an idea and it’s so fun to collaborate with him because he can be so animated.
What made you laugh the most when you saw the film for the first time?
I think Carrie Coon’s character really made me belly-laugh a lot. Yeah, she’s pretty priceless. And anytime Noelle Hawthorne showed up, Casey Wilson just made me cry with laughter.
My audience also laughed a lot at the very end, when you try to interrogate Amy and everyone leaps down your throat for it.
I know, it’s so genius. [Laughs.] Rosamund was so spectacular — we shot that for the whole day, I think, and I remember that when they start to wheel her away, she throws me that glance, like, Ha ha ha, I got you, too! Yeah, that was a great moment. She’s brutal! I became a victim, too.
You hadn’t actually read the book before you auditioned, so I’m curious what you responded to in the pages of dialogue you were given.
Just the first page of the first scene, it was just so beautifully written. It sort of felt like I could step into it, you know — like I had a connection to the material. I just started working on it and gave it my best shot. I’m glad he picked me, because it was certainly fun to do. And it wasn’t about her, which was sort of fun to play. It wasn’t her story, it wasn’t about ego or winning the case, it was about obsession with the truth. There was something just so appealing and real about that.
It’s interesting because there are plenty of police procedurals where the cops are just bland exposition machines. And there’s something about Boney that’s different.
I always liked detective shows, but this didn’t feel anything like those. I’d actually been to a precinct near my apartment in New York a few weeks before I had the audition, and it was just like walking back in time. These detectives came over to us, and they were just sort of resting back on their heels and they were really sizing us up, taking in every bit of information they could, and there was just something so wonderfully regular about them — they were just there to do their job. And then by the end of the interview, I got a little wink on the way out … like, Oh, we got a wink! There was something so human about them, and I feel like Boney is much more someone that the audience can relate to than the sort of hardened, hard-boiled detective that we generally see.
A lot has been made about the movie’s supposed “woman problem.” What’s your reaction to the claims that Gone Girl is misogynistic?
I think that’s a lame response, I really do. What, do we save all the sociopathic roles for men? I think there are several amazing female characters in this film, which is phenomenal, and it’s a mainstream movie that doesn’t cater to the idea that we have to please and be palatable to every audience, and leave everyone feeling good. I don’t think it’s misogynist at all — to me, I think it paints a three-dimensional picture of several different male and female characters. A lot of the colorful roles out there, they’re usually relegated to just men.
You’ve done a lot of TV, but in 2007, you shot multiple episodes of a Lily Tomlin comedy for HBO called 12 Miles of Bad Road, and they never aired it. That’s an unusual thing to see at HBO. What happened there?
Oh, that one really hurt. I’m in no position to really know the details, but we were shooting that at a time when there was a change-over at HBO, and we were the passion project for the president that left. And that switchover happened at the same time as the writers’ strike, so we shut down for a while, and I think when they reassessed things with the new president, I don’t think he found that he had the same passion for our show. I don’t know. I saw the show, and everybody was really excited about the show, and it was really fun and subversive. Linda Bloodworth-Thomason, who created it, is a genius. I’ve had the good fortune of working with David Milch several different times on two different shows, but she had that same kind of brilliance in her. The timing, the lines, the dialogue, the hilarity of it all was just spot-on. I don’t know, we were all pretty devastated by that. It was one of the ones that still hurts.